Marie Claire: “Do all women make bad bosses?”

Marie Claire (UK) has a pretty craptastic headline up at the moment: Do all women make bad bosses? It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see at AskMen, not a magazine/site meant for women.
And the content of the article isn’t much better:

According to a recent article, men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing compared to ladies, with four out of ten women who have female bosses insisting they could do a better job.
…Not much of a triumph for feminism so far, is it?
…So what do you think? Is there a reason why men make beter bosses (sic), or do you feel passionate about waving the flag for lady leaders? (Emphasis mine)

Asking a question about women and power that’s framed by the notion that men are “better” isn’t really asking a question…just saying.

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27 Comments

  1. Nicole
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    “men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing”
    Ah yes, because subjective perception is the best way of measuring ability. *rolls eyes* It’s not because, you know, people perceive behaviours differently in men and women, and women aren’t socially permitted as much aggression or authority as men.
    And there’s also this:
    “with four out of ten women who have female bosses insisting they could do a better job.”
    So…that means six out of ten, a majority of women, don’t insist that they could do a better job. Wow, I love how easy it is to manipulate statistics. Also, even if the figure were set to 10 out of 10, there are too many underlying factors to ignore – like what’s the comparable statistic with male bosses? And if it is indeed lower (as the article implies), then that doesn’t tell us male bosses are better – just that their female subordinates grant the male bosses more respect/authority/what have you. There are a million possible reasons this might be so.
    *sigh* faux sociology. Correlation does not equal causation, people!

  2. Becca Stareyes
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    My gut reaction to statements like ‘all wo/men are X’ is to disbelieve. Even if there is:
    A) A systematic difference between female and male bosses that
    B) Isn’t due to either the fact that working adults have had years of socialization in how to work in groups that often differs by gender or sex or that
    C) Working adults also often have gender biases, conscious or unconscious, which could affect the reaction to a female leader.
    Even then, I doubt that the best female boss is still below the cutoff of ‘non-bad boss’, unless you set the bar so high that male bosses don’t qualify either.

  3. Kyra Cat Soul
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Um.
    According to a recent article, men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing compared to ladies, with four out of ten women who have female bosses insisting they could do a better job.
    …Not much of a triumph for feminism so far, is it?
    HOW, pray tell, could anyone reasonably manage to get the conclusion “women make poor bosses” from the statistical assertion that some other women could make better bosses.
    Also, I really love how anything short of unanimous praise gets spun as “feminism fails/is rejected.”

  4. vtfem
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m studying to take the GRE exam this weekend, and this would be a great example for the “argument essay” part of the test. Basically, in the argument essay, you’re presented with a statement that results in a conclusion, based on all of these crazy assumptions, which you’re meant to write about. For example, X county charges money to use public parks, and don’t report very much environmental damage. Therefore Y county should charge more money to prevent overuse of their public parks.
    I should write to the GRE board and let them know about this fabulous example of an argument essay.
    I would love to write based on the topic several women in a study don’t like their female bosses, therefore feminism has failed. :)

  5. sepra
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Correlation does not equal causation, indeed. First, they don’t reference the article they are talking about, then they make broad generalizations without backing anything up, and use circumstantial evidence to prove their point.
    Companies with more female board members do worse? Really? You mean, they polled only the 13% of companies that have only one female board member to create that hateful stereotype? But man, it’s all her fault?!
    I think the editors at Marie Claire need to know who their target audience is, first. Then they need a big dose of STFU.

  6. smiley
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Not so fast.
    Whilst I won’t defend Marie-Claire’s science, I do find it slightly ironic that the comments above attack the conclusions on the grounds that the statistics are flawed, that the methodology is unsound, etc.
    I find it ironic because ‘research’ with the same errors and flaws showing the superiority of women (in politics, for example) passes muster on these pages!
    It is not possible to have it both ways: either the methodoligy is flawed or it is not. No matter the conclusions or feel-good factor.

  7. Toongrrl
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    “According to a recent article, men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing compared to
    ladies”
    Really?!? I didn’t see that back
    in middle school where the guys
    thought they could tell me not
    to study for a history test just because they wanted to do better than me (I had the best grades in 6th grade ancient history) and during 8th grade grad practice I was
    kicked repeatedly in the back (we were on the bleachers). Where did they go for
    their research?

  8. Toongrrl
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    “According to a recent article, men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing compared to
    ladies”
    Really?!? I didn’t see that back
    in middle school where the guys
    thought they could tell me not
    to study for a history test just because they wanted to do better than me (I had the best grades in 6th grade ancient history) and during 8th grade grad practice I was
    kicked repeatedly in the back (we were on the bleachers). Where did they go for
    their research?

  9. Toongrrl
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    “According to a recent article, men are considered less bullying, egotistical and overbearing compared to
    ladies”
    Really?!? I didn’t see that back
    in middle school where the guys
    thought they could tell me not
    to study for a history test just because they wanted to do better than me (I had the best grades in 6th grade ancient history) and during 8th grade grad practice I was
    kicked repeatedly in the back (we were on the bleachers). Where did they go for
    their research?

  10. bal
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/channel/TechnologyInnovation/news/925836/are-women-directors-bad-companys-bottom-line/
    This article describes the one study in question a bit more in detail. Apparently, they used data ending in 2003, and a lot of data points. The journal is a pretty good one as well.
    Their theory apparently hinges upon the idea that women monitor the companies more stringently (i.e., do their job as directors), thus constraining the companies’ risk-taking. This, of course, is the same reason that women are seen as being a solution to our current financial crisis.
    About women being “bullies”, yes, this is a common meme. Research, however, suggests that it’s not women’s behavior that differs from men (e.g., they actually aren’t bigger bullies) but that women women enact “masculine” behaviors, they are socially penalized by such perceptions.

  11. Crumpet
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Well, thank you for being the first to say what I was thinking in such a clear,concise way. I’ve had this discussion with female friends who have bought into this myth and I’ve challenged their lack of critical thinking about this issue and others like it. I think you hit the nail right on the head when pointing out that a man and woman could do the exact same thing yet the behaviors get interpreted and labelled differently. Also, I think people are biased and predisposed to expect a woman to be a worse boss after reading claptrap like this and that also influences how they perceive things. It’s like the old stereotype about how women are too emotional…….yet no one labels a man as ‘emotional’ when he loses his temper, cusses someone out, or punches a hole in the wall. My husband works in a male dominated field (engineering) and my jaw has dropped many times over the years when he has recounted stories of fist fights in the office, things being thrown, and people getting in each other’s faces making threats and using all kinds of profanity. Those guys also engage in a lot of bullying behaviors and malicious teasing but no one calls them ‘catty’. It’s all about seeing what you expect to see and twisted events around until the align with your world view. The cognitive dissonance of it all makes my brain bleed. Not to mention how many people will subconsciously (or not) resist the authority of a female boss and when she has to put the smackdown suddenly she’s a ball busting bitch with something to prove. Some women will be harsher on the female boss who doesn’t automatically take their side just because they are both women. Some women may resent that they cannot manipulate a female boss with their feminine wiles the way they could with some male bosses. Some men just plain resent having to answer to a woman in any way, shape, or form.
    I’ve had both great and lousy female bosses and the same with men. It ain’t about the genitals.

  12. Crumpet
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, thank you for being the first to say what I was thinking in such a clear,concise way. I’ve had this discussion with female friends who have bought into this myth and I’ve challenged their lack of critical thinking about this issue and others like it. I think you hit the nail right on the head when pointing out that a man and woman could do the exact same thing yet the behaviors get interpreted and labelled differently. Also, I think people are biased and predisposed to expect a woman to be a worse boss after reading claptrap like this and that also influences how they perceive things. It’s like the old stereotype about how women are too emotional…….yet no one labels a man as ‘emotional’ when he loses his temper, cusses someone out, or punches a hole in the wall. My husband works in a male dominated field (engineering) and my jaw has dropped many times over the years when he has recounted stories of fist fights in the office, things being thrown, and people getting in each other’s faces making threats and using all kinds of profanity. Those guys also engage in a lot of bullying behaviors and malicious teasing but no one calls them ‘catty’. It’s all about seeing what you expect to see and twisted events around until the align with your world view. The cognitive dissonance of it all makes my brain bleed. Not to mention how many people will subconsciously (or not) resist the authority of a female boss and when she has to put the smackdown suddenly she’s a ball busting bitch with something to prove. Some women will be harsher on the female boss who doesn’t automatically take their side just because they are both women. Some women may resent that they cannot manipulate a female boss with their feminine wiles the way they could with some male bosses. Some men just plain resent having to answer to a woman in any way, shape, or form.
    I’ve had both great and lousy female bosses and the same with men. It ain’t about the genitals.

  13. Disarm33
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, where did anyone say women are superior in leadership and politics? Saying one gender is better then another in anything is wrong. The overall consensus here and in other feminist circles seems to be that gender does not determine your strengths or weaknesses and that gender differences are overemphasized in these pop-sociology articles. In short, humans have both strengths and weaknesses as individuals, and generalizations about men and women are not as definitive as many people assume.

  14. zes
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Their methodology is definitely screwy because the facts it produces contradict ALL the other evidence out there.
    Some stats I’ve seen – companies in the US with more female board members outperform ones without by between 40-116%, depending how big a proportion of women they have. The companies in the top quartile of female board representation in Japan outdo the bottom quartile by 35%.
    There are not enough companies anywhere that are dominated by women, or with a large minority of women even, to draw conclusions regarding whether there is a critical mass of women beyond which they do no more good. But it IS true that in most studies, women are not only beneficial but exponentially so (each one adds more value than the last).
    It’s as likely just cos companies open to hiring women are flexible and adaptable, and not prejudiced and hidebound, rather than anything specific to women execs – or perhaps because women who succeed in today’s environment simply had to be far better than a comparable man, so they are promoting out of a uniquely gifted group. But anyway the facts are indisputable. The more women, the more profit.
    Some links
    http://www.20-first.com/847-0-proof-that-diversity-in-a-company-increases-sales-profit-and-more.html
    http://www.womensmedia.com/lead/87-women-on-corporate-boards-makes-good-business-sense.html

  15. bal
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s that their methodology is screwy per se, just that they’re looking at a different problem using different data. Catalyst and others have found that women on boards = more governance, which is, arguably, a good thing, and is definitely their job. This study finds that that same governance can hinder risk taking and thus the “extremes” of positive returns (and also of negative returns, ironically enough). Women tend to result in more even-keeled results.
    Though I haven’t read the article, I seriously doubt that the authors developed this conclusion on their own. I’m guessing it’s an extrapolation into the story the media *wants* to tell. Interestingly enough, this data collection was undertaken at the height of the bubble (ending in 2003), meaning that that the same risk taking that led to increased profits then, may very well have led to huge losses in those firms in 2008. Another research question for another day, I suppose.

  16. Charybdis
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    And according to Virginia Valian, in her book Why So Slow, published in 1999, *many* studies show that the *exact same* behaviour will elicit completely different interpretations and reactions depending on whether the behaviour is exhibited by a man or by a woman – and this is when the tested subjects doing the evaluation are women, as well as men. It’s called “internalized imperialism”, btw. Study results show that when women are assertive in exactly the same way as men, using the same scripts, body language, etc., their behaviour is interpreted as more threatening or “angrier”. Methinks that we probably haven’t changed much in the last ten years :(

  17. Charybdis
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh, really? According to Virginia Valian, in her book Why So Slow, published in 1999, *many* studies show that the *exact same* behaviour will elicit completely different interpretations and reactions depending on whether the behaviour is exhibited by a man or by a woman – and this is when the tested subjects doing the evaluation are women, as well as men. It’s called “internalized imperialism”, btw. Study results show that when women are assertive in exactly the same way as men, using the same scripts, body language, etc., their behaviour is interpreted as more threatening or “angrier”. Methinks that we probably haven’t changed much in the last ten years :(

  18. Lisa
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the many damned if you do, damned if you don’t positions women get put into. If a woman is assertive, even if her actions are identical to a male counterpart, she’s a bitch/dyke/shrill cunt/nutcracker. If a woman is more traditionally feminine and defers to other or makes fewer demands, she’s considered incapable of leadership. Women are socially punished for stepping outside of norms but the norms themselves are used as an excuse to limit women who do adhere to them.

  19. Fat Old Man
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Marie Claire: not my experience.
    I’ve worked in a female-dominated field across four decades and have had a good number of women bosses. All were at least competent, and several were extraordinarily skilled. Only one would even have come close to the “bully” canard.
    Only a sample of one, mind you. YMMV.

  20. kave
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I’m working with a guy right now with management to either get him in line or get him fired. He’s taken two anger management courses in prior employment and is frankly mentally unstable. We are working together as a two person team with myself as the lead.
    On a daily basis his voice raises and my voice softens, the smallest thing will set him off.
    It’s a strange situation and temporary but one complaint that he brought to me about his life really hit home with what I’m dealing with, although mentally unstable he’s also allowing himself to raise his voice to me because I’m a women.
    He bought a condo and tore down walls, electric and plumbing without permits, licensed tradespersons, or permission from the condo board.
    Listening to him on the phone and to me: the property manager who is a women is an absolute bitch for telling him to stop construction until he has the proper permits and tradespeople. The condo board chairperson (male) is trying to help him.
    I’ve heard enough of his conversations with both to know that they are both telling him the same thing, often word for word on speaker phone. He gets angry at the concept regarding the man, but only gets angry at the woman.
    I’ve met a few men, minority but still there just like him in my lifetime.

  21. Marc
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    “Do All Male Bosses Sexually Harrass Their Female Employees?”
    Shitty headline, shitty article.

  22. Engel Kobres
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Maria Claire isn’t a business publication and they are flatly wrong. Warren Bennis is considered the nations authority on leadership. That is easily researchable.
    This is a direct quote of Bennis published in The Economist “Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus”; “I think a lot of the leaders I’ve spoken to give expression to their feminine side. Many male leaders are almost bisexual in their ability to be open and reflective…Gender is not the determining factor.”
    Women are more likely to find it easy and intuitive to think we rather than I. That is an arbitrating factor in success according to Peter F Drucker, the most respected management theorist who ever lived. Perhaps Maria Claire should have interviewed Rosabeth Moss Kanter who is one of the most respected management theorists alive and a tenured professor at HBS. Can I write a guest post on this topic?

  23. Engel Kobres
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Maria Claire isn’t a business publication and they are flatly wrong. Warren Bennis is considered the nations authority on leadership. That is easily researchable.
    This is a direct quote of Bennis published in The Economist “Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus; “I think a lot of the leaders I’ve spoken to give expression to their feminine side. Many male leaders are almost bisexual in their ability to be open and reflective…Gender is not the determining factor.”
    Women are more likely to find it easy and intuitive to think we rather than I. That is an arbitrating factor in success according to Peter F Drucker, the most respected theorist who ever lived. Perhaps Maria Claire should have interviewed Rosabeth Moss Kanter who is one of the most respected management theorists alive and a tenured professor at HBS. Can I write a guest post on this topic?

  24. smiley
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Disarm33,
    See Bal’s comments on this very page.

  25. brattycakes
    Posted December 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    As much as it hurts my feminist sensibilities, I have to say most of my female bosses have been awful. I wish it were not true, but nearly every one I have had was determined to see female underlings fail, some even engaged in outright sabotage.
    Granted, I’ve had plenty of sexist, sexually harassing male bosses as well. But nearly every female boss I’ve worked for seemed determined to make sure she was the only woman who ‘made it.’
    We should be able to do better by each other than that.

  26. brattycakes
    Posted December 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    As much as it hurts my feminist sensibilities, I have to say most of my female bosses have been awful. I wish it were not true, but nearly every one I have had was determined to see female underlings fail, some even engaged in outright sabotage.
    Granted, I’ve had plenty of sexist, sexually harassing male bosses as well. But nearly every female boss I’ve worked for seemed determined to make sure she was the only woman who ‘made it.’
    We should be able to do better by each other than that.

  27. Alison
    Posted December 13, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to add an experience. I don’t want to gender bash, but the subject of male vs. female bosses came up in conversation awhile back and I realized something. I’ve had competitive issues with my male bosses, I think its because they don’t nurture my outside endeavors. Its been my experience they usually see personal interests as threatening and/or a distraction from my work for them. It isn’t and I end up getting let go or laid off because they don’t want to manage me. ALL of my female bosses knew how to use my outside and personal interests to their advantage. It worked out great and felt good and trusted my bosses more. Only one male boss was able to do that. I don’t know if I am the only one that has had this experience. I do have a lot of outside work (blog, book, art) I focus on.
    All I know is you get one hell of a dedicated worker when you actually care and support them outside of their daily duties and its something that should be considered when talking about a good or bad boss.

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